Mapping American Indian Federal Boarding Schools

For the digital project, I’m proposing that I create a Story Map using GIS software to create an interactive map of American Indian federal boarding schools. Most of my research has revolved around American Indian boarding schools. For those unfamiliar, the federal government created boarding schools in the late 1800s to send American Indian children to in order to assimilate them into white, Anglo-American society. These schools maintained many cruel practices, including militaristic practices, forbidding other languages besides English, and basically “renting” students to people in the community to do manual labor with little to no accountability on the institution’s part. They have largely shaped American Indian education and culture in the United States and the effects of them are still apparent in American Indian communities today.

I never formally learned about these in school, in high school or even college. The only reason I heard of federal American Indian boarding schools was when I began an internship at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona where I worked on an exhibit that centered around student experiences in them. Last semester in research seminar, I conducted research on the enforcement of Anglo-American gender roles used to assimilate students at the Phoenix Indian School and the Sherman Indian Institute between World War II and 1963.

Memorial Hall at the closed Phoenix Indian School. This building has been preserved since the school’s closure in 1991 and the land is now Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix, Arizona. Courtesy of Flickr user, C Hanchey.

When I was in the depths of researching boarding schools, it was difficult to find a specific place where I could learn more about them that wasn’t Wikipedia or a scholarly monograph. Even in the Wikipedia pages, it was difficult to find general information about when they were in operation, or any current digital resources to learn more. I found a map on the Carlisle Indian School website, but it was extremely difficult to use and offered little information. In embarking on this project, I hope to create an interactive map that is easy and clean to use. The names of schools will be mapped out in their respective locations, but will also include the years of operation, and further links to relevant digital resources to make them more accessible to scholars and the general public alike. For this resource, I’d also like to be able to make it collaborative in some way so if there is any information that I missed on the project it could be easily added, either through contacting me directly or a different process.

If anyone is interested in learning more about American Indian boarding schools, this is an excellent and informative exhibit titled, Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories. (I archived yearbook photos for it when I interned at this museum!)

Commercializing the American West: Tombstone versus Montezuma Castle in Online Reviews

The city of Tombstone, Arizona has been lauded as a tourist town with a Western history — one of the last standing remnants of the American Wild West. Of course, I have visited Tombstone on many occasions, usually to escape the brutal Phoenix heat of summer. It offers plenty of attractions for tourists including: gunfight shows, ghost tours, regular walking tours, underground mine tours, old-time photo studios, and more. While Tombstone has a rich history as a silver mining hub during the mid to late 1800s, its population has hovered around 150 people or less since the 1930s, leaving tourism the main focus of the town.

Courtesy of Jessica Spengler on Flickr

Almost 300 miles north of Tombstone, another popular attraction (and summer escape) is the Montezuma Castle National Monument in Camp Verde, Arizona. This structure was created by the Singua people between 1100 and 1425 AD. It is one of the best preserved cliff dwellings on the continent, and is a magical sight to see. The American Antiquities Act of 1906 declared it a national monument, seizing it for the federal government. As a site of the National Park Service, there are plenty of opportunities for grade school field trips and education about the plants, animals, and archaeological finds at Montezuma Castle.

Courtesy of user AP07 on Flickr

For the project, I am proposing that I would examine reviews for each site on Google Reviews and Yelp. With one site being marketed as a tourist attraction with fun and a little bit of history, and the other being owned and operated by the National Park Service, I want to explore the differences between the reviews of both of them. Tombstone has been heavily commercialized and visitors are expected to have an “experience” and to get lost in its spectacle. How would this compare to the reviews of a formal historical site? Would there be a large difference? What does the general audience for both take into account? I think examining these would answer some important questions about the commercialization of the Wild West in comparing a mostly white-settled town like Tombstone with a historic site that was created by indigenous people of Arizona over 600 hundred years ago.

Connecting our audience with the past: Wikipedia and Flickr

Wikipedia:

Wikipedia is a free, open-access, online encyclopedia. We all have used Wikipedia before, whether to read about the cast members of a Netflix show we recently binged, or to learn more about an obscure historical event — but how much thought have we put into the background of it and how it works?

As Roy Rosenzweig wrote in the article, “Can History Be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past” Wikipedia is constantly changing and adapting, while also running into some drawbacks, including the difficulty of historians collaborating on writing/editing entries. Rosenzweig states, “The lack of a single author or an overall editor means that Wikipedia sometimes gets things wrong in one place and right in another.” (128)

The first example I want to take a look at is a Wikipedia page. There are many different tabs that one could explore. The “Talk” tab opens to a page where the editors of a page can discuss improving the article page.

This page lists information and guidelines for the user. Another tab is the “Edit” tab, which takes you directly to the coding of the page, where you can edit and then submit to be reviewed. An important tab I’d like to focus on is the tab, “View history”

The tab “View history” details every change made to the Wikipedia article. The top of the page offers a key to help the user understand the changes that were made. For example, “m” equals a minor edit, which is visible on the edit that was made on January 30, 2021. This article is relatively active with the changes made to it, as already in 2021 there were edits to the page almost every day.

In digital history, Wikipedia can be an important resource, as long as we understand how to read articles effectively. Although written fifteen years ago, Rosenzweig’s article offers valuable insight on knowing when it is useful to use Wikipedia.

Flickr:

Flickr is a website that hosts images and videos uploaded by users. I created a free account, where you are able to write a bio, follow accounts, upload your own media, favorite images, and even create your own galleries showcasing media you come across.

Searching is relatively easy on this platform. To continue with my Watergate theme, I searched Richard Nixon. There are many ways to refine the search, and I left open the tab to refine search by license. This is important in a website like this, as copyright restrictions are necessary to understand and use in our practice of digital history. The U.S. Department of State even has a Flickr account that is regularly updated, as these images were taken and uploaded on February 5, 2021.

An important feature of Flickr is the Flickr Commons. According to the main page, “The key goal of The Commons is to share hidden treasures from the world’s public photography archives.” Flickr is utilizing its platform in collaboration with archives to help increase the accessibility of photographs. This is important, as it allows the public to not only view these images, but to interact and contribute knowledge to them as well.

I grew up going to The Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois, and I was excited when I saw they were a “Participating Institution” while exploring the Flickr Commons. They have a plethora of images viewable by the public and the screenshot is open to view some of their albums.

This is an example of an album titled, “Early Field Museum (1919-1922)”.

As digital historians, it is important to know that these resources like Wikipedia and Flickr exist, and how to properly use them. I hope this overview is a good introduction to these not only as we have known them, but as valuable tools as we continue to learn and become professionals in the field. I’m looking forward to taking you through these in class next Wednesday.

Defining Digital History – Odds

Hello! I’m going to spend the next few paragraphs unpacking the odd readings due for next week. I’d love to hear your feedback, and cannot wait to discuss in class next Wednesday!

Natalia Cecire takes on a large question in “Theory and the Virtues of Digital Humanities.” Cecuire poses that the question of theory, “is a question about the place of digital humanities in a set of disciplines that have continually wrestled with the status of the word in the production of knowledge” (np). In this introduction, she goes on to look at several aspects of this: the epistemologies of doing, epistemological claims as ethical claims, ethical claims as normative claims, and so on, building each section.

The History Manifesto by Jo Guldi and David Armitage reads as a call to action for historians and readers alike on the crises of the humanities. The authors contend with short-term versus long-term thinking and the changes the field has experienced. In Chapter 4, the increasing availability of digitized knowledge is discussed. With the breadth of digitized knowledge, historians are now able to sift through and synthesize accessible information than before. This raises a few questions posed by the authors: how then should we think about the past and the future? How will this continue to change universities?

This article by Rebecca Onion titled “Snapshots of History” was an interesting read. She criticizes Twitter accounts that post historical images which either lack context or are fake. With depriving viewers of the context and plastering similar images over and over, Onion writes that she believes it viewers do not get the joy of the historical rabbit hole or learn from the posts. How do we as pubic historians think that these accounts effect the public consumption of historical knowledge?

In the blog post, “Getting Started in the Digital Humanities”, we change gears slightly from the previous readings. Rather than defining digital history, Spiro aims to help readers DO digital history. They offer tips on how to get involved with digital humanities and the DH community, how to find collaborators and even learn best practice. However, these readings have left me with a question I’d like the class to discuss: what IS the definition of digital history? Is there one specific definition or does it move more fluidly?

Intro – Ellie McMillan

Hi everyone! My name is Ellie McMillan and I’m a second year in the Public History MA program. I currently intern at the White House Historical Association and have been there since Fall 2019. I went to Arizona State University and got my BA in History with two minors: Art History and French, but am originally from Wisconsin. Graduation is quickly approaching and I am getting increasingly nervous to enter the field at such an uncertain time!

I have always known I wanted to work with history. The first real experience I had working in a museum was during my sophomore year of college, where I interned at the Heard Museum, which is a museum in Phoenix, Arizona that focuses on American Indian art, culture, and history.

Me at the Wharf 🙂

My research interests mostly focus on marginalized groups and bringing their history to the forefront. Last semester in research seminar, I researched and wrote on gender in two American Indian boarding schools during the 20th century. Last year in practicum, my group created an exhibit on the history of African Liberation Day in DC and partnered with a local organization. I believe that my work as a public historian is to help tell stories untold and to increase accessibility to learn those stories.

I’m looking forward to continuing to get to know you all this semester 🙂